Monday, June 21, 2010

the dead dog and the stinking cartoon

In the UK we have a political gossip-blogger and cartoonist called Guido Fawkes, occasionally also known as former City trader Paul Staines.

Hedda HopperFawkes/foxBasically a political version of Hedda Hopper, Fawkes has excelled even himself in poor taste with a cartoon of Conservative MP David Ruffley who, apparently having become depressed in the wake of the expenses scandal, fell in front of a train on Thursday 17 June, in what the police described as a "non-suspicious incident". The cartoon depicts Mr Ruffley telling a doctor that the cause of the incident was because "they wouldn't let me claim for rope or pills".

I don't care what party Ruffley belongs to, and this is not the time to discuss what he may or may not stand accused of. Some years ago I was lucky enough to survive a suicide attempt, and can recognise Staines' scratchings as an attention-junkie waving histrionically as he kicks against a sea of apathy.

joan fontaineHollywood Actress Joan Fontaine once sent Hedda Hopper a dead skunk with the note "I stink, and so do you". Staines stinks like a dead dog. I must ask political columnists and bloggers to give him the attention he has indicated that he deserves: none.

And I hope better days lie ahead for David Ruffley.

h/t Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome for his Facebook alert.


  1. Guido did not write or draw the cartoon, I did.

    Cartoons should be tasteless, over the top and crossing every line imagineable. That's why they are cartoons, in the sporit of Hogarth, Gillray, Scarfe and Bell.

  2. Rich, I suspect that your cartoon is going to be dug up whenever somebody in the public eye is associated with a "non-suspicious" accident. Perhaps it might have been a little less shocking after a longer interval, but even then, in similar circumstances, I think seeing something like that might have pushed me over the edge.

    If you believe what you write about cartoons, you obviously belong to the Ross/Brand school of humour that caused earthquakes in the BBC.

    I'm not able to find an example of a cartoon of somebody who has attempted suicide being made fun of in his hospital bed by Hogarth, Gillray, Scarfe or Bell. Perhaps you can enlighten me?

  3. I've been going over to order-order less & less of late. There's very little of substance any more. Whereas it used to be the closest thing to Private Eye it really is descending into the Heat magazine of politics. Heat sells a lot of copy (relatively speaking) so I guess there's a market for it, but not for me.

    The cartoon (and Guido's defence of it) has been a tipping point. The site really doesn't seem to have anything positive to contribute any more and the cartoon optimised it. The cartoon didn't say anything clever or poignant or challenging or insightful or sophisticated or satirical (in fairness, they rarely do!). It had all the sophistication of a Roy Chubby Brown joke. Again - he appeals to a certain sort of audience, but not to me and it's certainly not what attracted me to the blog in the first place.

    When you rely on shock tactics to get attention, you're on a downward spiral of diminishing returns. Hope Guido can pull it back, otherwise he'll be operating on the same mentality of those teenagers who've descended to happy-slapping for 'laughs'.

  4. I didn indeed enjoy said Ross/Brand show. As did, it seemed, the rest of the listeners. As opposed to the Daily Mail army who were told to be shocked.

    Hogarth's Gin Lane showed child death, based on a case of a woman who strangled her baby to sell its clothes to buy gin.

    Guido's site has always had the same aim as his namesake. To blow up Parliament.

  5. Ah, I think we see the problem now. The only thing that matters is the response of the audience. Because the audience loved Ross/Brand then there was nothing wrong with what they did (leaving unsolicited lewd messages on his answer machine)?

    So, as long as people enjoy happy slapping then regarding the 'victim' is irrelevant.

    And that's what I regard the cartoon as - the visual equivalent of running upto a vagrant and slapping him across the face whilst filming it on your mobile. Very amusing for the teenagers but not for the vagrant or anyone with a sense of decency.

    Like I said, it's a path of diminishing returns - people won't be shocked next time so you'll need a new line to cross. As with happy slapping, no-one actually thinks it's genuinely funny, the amusement comes from knowing you're being outrageous or inappropriate. It's why my children find the ford poo so funny.

  6. Hi Rebel - I like your blog!

    I think this is the problem: folk like Rich think they have a God-given right to offend whoever they want, but react waspishly when they find themselves criticised.

    Rich, I can't see the baby being strangled in Gin Lane. In the forefront a mother has let her baby slip out of her arms into the river, and behind the wall, a woman feeds her baby gin, presumably to keep it quiet. There was undoubtedly a gin problem in Hogarth's London, but did he think all would be well if Gin Lane became Beer Street? The two were a piece of economic propaganda, to encourage people to stop buying Dutch-made gin and start buying British-brewed beer. Your cartoon on the other hand, had no other purpose but to poke fun at an easy target who cannot at the moment strike back.

    I don't read the Mail, but where it came into the story in the Ross/Brand debâcle wsa when Melanie Phillips ran a story on it. People then listened to the clip on YouTube (the BBC had removed it and was pretending it hadn't happened) and woke up to what their licence fee was going towards. The amount of complaints then forced the BBC to come clean on the complaints that they's received up to that point, and also on the fact that Andrew Sachs had complained - which they also had denied.

    Lastly, Rich, if nobody has a right not to be offended, as Philip Pullman says, what's your beef with my criticism of your cartoon?

  7. I have no beef with your criticism of my cartoon. I was merely replying to it, and pointing out some of the inaccuracies. In no way do I think your criticism of my cartoon shouldn't exist - indeed I'm welcomed and heartened by it.

    The dropping baby was a reference to the strangled baby case. Strangling for clothes to pay for gin would take multiple panels. And yes he had a commercial interest, I only have a satirical one. Does that make his work somehow morally superior?

    That you don't like the cartoon is fine and I would be foolish to argue with you. That you attribute it to Paul's authorship is incorrect. That you find one tasteless cartoon acceptable and one not, is a sign of hypocrisy. That you post on Twitter that I am "losing the plot" by doing nothing more than replying to your allegations calmy, albeit with typos, is dirty pool, old man.

  8. I'm heartened that you follow me on Twitter, Rich. Thank you for writing your latest comment in a rather more measured style. I did not make a case for Gin Lane to be morally superior to your effort or otherwise, I was merely pointing out that it had a purpose beyond shock-value when seen with its other half, Beer Street. What purpose did your cartoon have beyond titillation for people who find what may have been a suicide attempt funny?

  9. How has anything I've written not been in a measured style?

    The purpose was to mock the expense abuse carried out by our elected and indeed re-elected politicians.

    Less following you on Twitter, more a vanity search. Useful to see if someone is lying about me.

  10. Rich,
    "Cartoons should be tasteless"? You would have to dig deep to find that definition. Cartoons should be funny.

  11. Hi Linda - thanks for your support! Also for your enquiry, which I've answered in a couple of PMs to Pam.

    Rich, the last thing I have to say to you is that you have lost what little respect I had for you after you published your cartoon. In saying there was something in Hogarth's Gin Lane - a drawing which is all over the internet, and which as a former drugs worker I'm rather familiar with - that blatantly isn't there, you went beyond disingenuousness into the realm of the contemptuous and the not very clever.

    Moreover, with the expenses scandal you had plenty of material in terms of duck-houses, moats and blue movies for a genuinely intelligent offering, but instead you chose to pick on somebody who was clearly at the bottom of their emotional spectrum. In short, like the skunk sent to Hedda Hopper, you stink.

  12. Linda, political cartoons that are merely funn are fleeting. Political cartoons that are tasteless have a chance of standing the test of time. Of making a far greater point.

    Frugal, you're not familiar with the case to which that aspect of Gin Lane refers to his fine. But rather than research it, you say it doesn't exist. Look, even Wikipedia has it...

    With the expense scandal, I HAVE drawn and had published cartoons involving duck houses, moats and blue movies, all for Guido. I haven't just drawn one cartoon and that's it. But you seem to have only read one cartoon. Why is that?


Please feel free to leave a comment - Frugal Dougal.